“My dream is that there is a congregation of people worshipping God in every community in the diocese, bearing witness to God’s love for the world in Jesus.”
These opening words of Bishop Matt’s vision for the Diocese of Bendigo were central to his second charge to Synod as he outlined five first steps for the diocese to take in working towards this dream.
Bishop Matt focused on John 20:21, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you”, encouraging the people of the diocese to work together to fulfil Jesus’ mission to us. “As the Father has sent me, so he sends us so that we may have peace and so that the world may be transformed by peace.”
He then went on to explain each of the five steps; loving our neighbours, working together, developing ministers, growing ministries and God’s hands and feet.
Loving our Neighbours
Following Jesus’ command to love one another, the growing relationship with the Dja Dja Wurrung Corporation is a specific way the diocese can love our neighbours. Bishop Matt indicated the Dja Dja Wurrung will help in developing concrete actions that we can take in partnership with our first peoples to work towards reconciliation.
Providing redress for those who have been abused is another specific way to show love that the diocese will be committing to doing transparently and in good faith. “In confronting our failure we are in the blessed position of being able to make right something that is so wrong,” Bishop Matt said.
Worship and witness were emphasised as the way to keep ‘the main thing the main thing’ as Bishop Matt pursues his dream to have a congregation worshipping God in every community in the diocese. “In a broken world where disharmony reigns we’re called to bear witness to what God has done, to rectify the wrong in this world, in Jesus,” he said.
Bishop Matt outlined the importance of parishes collaborating with one another and being diligent when organising ourselves for growth. He also reinforced the diocese’s commitment to locally embedded ministry, “so that God’s people can worship wherever they are planted.”
Nurturing young leaders as they begin training was identified as a strategy to recruit people to serve in the diocese. Bishop Matt hopes to establish student ministry placements in hand-picked places so those seeking to serve can come to the diocese before getting settled in a more urban place.
He also reiterated the great ministry of OLM and OPM ministers, and the hope to continue to grow more locally embedded leaders for congregations. “As we look to the future we must pray and we must trust that God will raise up people to follow in the footsteps of our OLMs and OPMs,” he said.
A focus on youth and children’s ministry will be the role of the Rev’d Trevor Bell as he seeks to nurture the faith of young people. “I’m constantly encouraged by the grandparents who want to talk with me about how they might grow faith in their young ones…Trev’s there to provide resources and encouragement,” Bishop Matt said.
Bishop Matt also spoke of continuing pioneering ministry to, “discover new ways of connecting with those who don’t come to church.” He noted Fiona Preston has begun a new ministry seeking to be a Christian presence outside the church environment to point people towards church.
God’s hands and feet
Bishop Matt has invited the diocese to join him on the Diocesan Prayer Adventure, to pray for three people known to them that their hearts may be opened to know God, and that we are given opportunities to share with them why Jesus is important to us.
“My challenge in 2019 for all of us who regularly worship God in the Diocese of Bendigo is to be active in praying for others,” he said. “We will talk to God about people before talking to people about God. Choose three people to pray for each day for a year, knowing that God already knows them and praying that they might come to know God.”